Updated January 29, 2019
You won’t lose everything when filing for bankruptcy in West Virginia. West Virginia’s bankruptcy exemptions allow you to protect property you’ll need to work and live, such as a home, car, and retirement account.
West Virginia, like every state, has a set of bankruptcy exemptions. Federal bankruptcy exemptions also exist.
Some states allow residents to choose between the state and federal exemption laws, but not West Virginia. You’ll use West Virginia’s state exemptions and, if they’re helpful, the federal nonbankruptcy exemptions.
To learn more about bankruptcy exemptions, the state exemption system, and the homestead exemption rules, read Bankruptcy Exemptions – What Can I Keep When I File for Bankruptcy?
Here are some of the more common exemptions in West Virginia. When reviewing them, you’ll want to keep these things in mind:
38-10-4 - Real or personal property used as a residence up to $25,000. Unused portion can be applied to any other property (see the wildcard exemption).
38-10-4 – Equity in a motor vehicle up to $2,400.
38-10-4(e) - $800 plus any unused portion of homestead or burial exemption can be used to protect any personal property (property other than real estate).
38-10-4 - Clothing, household goods, furnishings, appliances, books, musical instruments, animals, and crops up to $400 per item and $8,000 total; jewelry up to $1,000; health aids; lost earnings payments needed for support; personal injury recoveries up to $15,000 (pain and suffering and pecuniary awards excluded); prepaid higher education trust fund and savings plan payments; and wrongful death recoveries for a person you depended upon for support.
38-10-4 - Burial plot up to $25,000 (must be used instead of the homestead exemption).
38-5A-3 - Minimum of 30 times the federal hourly minimum wage per week. A judge might approve more for a low-income debtor.
11 U.S.C. § 522 - Tax exempt retirement accounts (including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, profit-sharing and money purchase plans, SEP and SIMPLE IRAs, and defined benefit plans).
11 U.S.C. § 522(b)(3)(C)(n) - IRAS and Roth IRAs to maximum (amount changes).
5-10-46 - Public employees.
18-7A-30 - Teachers.
38-10-4 - ERISA-qualified benefits and IRAs needed for support.
38-10-4 - Crime victims' compensation; unemployment compensation; public assistance; Social Security; disability; and Veterans' benefits.
Tools of Trade
38-10-4 - Tools, books and implements of trade up to $1,500.
Alimony and Child Support
38-10-4 - Alimony and child support needed for support.
33-6-28 - Group life insurance policy and proceeds.
38-10-4 - Unmatured life insurance contract (except for credit life insurance contract); life insurance dividends, interest, loan, cash, or surrender value for person you depended; and unmatured life insurance contracts' accrued loan value, interest, or dividend up to $8,000 as long as the debtor owns the contract and the insured is either the debtor or a person the debtor is dependant upon.
Add any applicable Federal Nonbankruptcy Exemptions.
Some people can keep all assets, but that isn’t always true. Here’s what will happen to nonexempt property:
You’ll learn more about Chapter 7 and 13 in Which Type of Bankruptcy is Right for Me?
This list includes the majority of bankruptcy exemptions available in West Virginia. However, doesn’t include all exemptions. Also, states often create qualification requirements for specific exemptions, and West Virginia might have changed the amounts since this list was last updated. Check the West Virginia Code or with a local bankruptcy lawyer.